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Words have Power - John 1:1-18

John is a gospel that is often looked over as over-spiritual.  Our liberal sensibilities don't have room for all that spiritualized nonsense.  I would like to explore the gospel of John and see if we can learn something of the gospel message.  I am going in with no set agenda, but, I expect that since it is a gospel presentation, that we will walk out with a new understanding of the gospel.  The gospel we generally share today is not good news to the people around us...have we changed it?  Can John reconnect us with what the gospel was to the first Christians? To the gospel Jesus preached?

Traditionally, the gospel of John was believed to be written by the disciple of Christ known by that same name, John, son of Zebedee.  This is an old tradition to us, but it is a tradition that came late for the gospels, and with little evidence.  Irenaeus claimed to remember being told that John wrote the gospel.  Irenaeus was the disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, giving this theory some weight.  Another story claims that a council member remembered his grandmother claiming that the book was written by John.  Many scholars question the authorship because they date the gospel to a very late date.  The late dating is questionable, because they base the date on their unbelief that the gospel writer could have any foreknowledge of events to come.  Within the text there are examples of some foreknowledge, but also some gaps in knowledge if it were written as late as they say.  For example, the author seems unaware of the destruction of the temple, indicating that it was written before it was destroyed, I will not be questioning the date, I simply do not believe we have enough evidence to give the gospel a late date.  I do, however, believe that the attributed author is questionable.  It could have been written by John, but there are some other possibilities that could be interesting.  The book does not make a direct claim to authorship, but it gives hints at who may have written it.  As we go through we will make note of these hints and discuss possibility.

We start with the intro to John, John 1:1-18.  In this small section the gospel introduces us to the ancient Christ, the"Word".  The Word was with God since the very beginning.  The Word was the hand that did the creating.  The Word was God.  When we first encounter this message without any other information we are tempted to think that John invented this type of thinking in order to explain the deity of Christ, but this is not so.  Jesus, John, or any other potential author from this time period and location would have grown up hearing this phrase.  The common language at the time was not Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, but Aramaic.  The people may have had some knowledge of Hebrew, but they would have been much more comfortable in Aramaic.  This is noted in many of the word plays and idioms used in the New Testament, the spoken language was Aramaic.  Rabbi's knew this and often made translations for reading to the people.  These translations were called Targum.  They were paraphrased and they were particular to the Rabbi who was translating them, but they did often share certain features.  One of the common features is the phrase "The Word".  Anytime the scriptures had God speaking back and forth to himself they made that easier to read by using the word for God for one, and the phrase "the Word" for the other persona.  They also used "the Word" anytime God had a physical presence. Moses saw the backside of "the Word", and before that the burning bush was "the Word".  Adam and Eve walked in the Garden with "the Word".  The creator (the Word), formed Adam from earth.  Understanding this small thing can be incredible.  When you read the Old Testament think about these places and start to substitute "the Word" in these places.  When you do this you will see the work of Christ throughout time.

In this introduction we learn that the Word, God, set aside his divinity to become a man.  He came to his people, his creation, but they didn't understand, they didn't accept him.  We also learn that some did accept him, and those who believe become Children of God.  Right from the start of this Gospel we learn that there is an invitation to enter the family of God.  Often in scripture the child of something is something that inherits the qualities of the parent.  The children of Baal in the OT were people who acted in evil ways.  To be invited into the family of God, is to be invited into His nature.  This gospel starts with an invitation to change your nature.  This is great because it hits right at the problem.  I don't do the good I want to do, and I do the evil I do not want to do (Romans 7:19).  This is a problem that I want fixed.  John, you have my attention!

In this section we also learn a few qualities of the Word.  The Word is God.  This makes him putting his divinity aside so much more powerful then a low view of Christ.  This is the stuff of heroes.  In today's language, he put aside his "privilege" so that he could be with us.  White folks, we have people asking us to do just this every day...are you prepared to follow Christ here?  We also learn that he is the light.  The Word is going to reveal something to us...darkness cannot resist the light.  The scripture says that the light shines on everyone...truth is offered universal.  Finally we learn that the Word brings grace, where the law was something different.

So, in summary: the physical manifestation of God set aside his divinity to be with his people.  He provided truth and revelation to all, and he offers out grace where once there was only the burden of the law.  Creation did not understand him or his message, but still some believed.  Those who believe will have their nature changed and healing will begin.  John the Baptist prepared people for this by introducing the Word made flesh to the world.  Now that is a good start to a gospel.

In closing I want to give you some ideas for talking about this at home with your family.  The topic can be simplified into "Words have Power" and from there you have to find the right moment to dive into the narrative further.

  1. Conversation at the dinner table 
    1. What is something that someone said to you that really hurt you.  How did you respond? Discuss how words have the power to hurt us, and that hurt is real.  Discuss how knowing this can encourage you to be careful of your language.
    2. What is something that someone said to you that made you feel good?  How did you respond? Discuss how words have the power to encourage.  Discuss patterns and habits that can encourage more of this.  How can we make this place more like God's kingdom?
    3. Have you ever done something good or bad that you would not have otherwise done because of someone else's words?  Discuss the power of words to influence us.  Consider the words used to cause the world's atrocities, or the words used to inspire the great achievements.  
  2. Game
    1. Simon Says - after playing discuss the power of one word
  3. Video
    1. Shane Koyczan did a powerful beat poem on the power of words.  This is for teens and adults only, it uses some language and has a powerful message.
    2. Movies that may lead to good discussions: The King's Speech, The Network, V for Vendetta
Hope you enjoyed this post, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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